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Iconic Power Plant Topples to the Ground

Four hundred and fifty pounds of dynamite and 90 controlled explosions level the plant in one minute.

Thu June 06, 2013 - Southeast Edition
Cindy Riley

In what’s being described as the largest demolition in the state’s history, crews in Hollywood, Fla., have successfully imploded the Port Everglades Power Plant, using 450 lbs. (204.1 kg) of dynamite and 90 controlled explosions. It took only a minute for the four 7,500 ton (6,803.8 t) boilers and smokestacks to collapse as predicted, both in timing and location.

“It sounded like Fourth of July fireworks as the early charges detonated, and then moved to more of a rolling thunder,” said Greg Brostowicz, company spokesman of Florida Power & Light. “You could see some flashes of light, and then some dust came up when the structures hit the ground.”

The early morning, mid-July demolition of the Port Everglades structure paves the way for a new $1.2 billion natural gas energy center that is expected to open in 2016. The implosion required months of planning, according to D.H. Griffin Wrecking Company, the company responsible for carrying out the series of blasts.

“We were on site for several months getting ready for this event, making sure everyone was on the same page as far as how, when and what was going to happen,” said David Griffin Jr., president of D. H. Griffin. “This job involved thousands of hours of planning, and included meetings with city, state, federal and local authorities , as well as adjacent property owners. It was a real adrenaline rush when the day finally arrived, much like getting ready to play in a major sporting event. For us, this was the Super Bowl.”

Using primarily Caterpillar, Komatsu and Hitachi equipment, D.H. Griffin crews performed a variety of tasks in connection with the implosion including demolishing turbines and breaking up concrete foundation. Multiple large excavators ranging from 10 to 80 tons (9 to 72.5 t) were used, including a Caterpillar 365 hydraulic excavator with a 130 ft. (39.6 m) ultra high demolition long arm and LaBounty UP20 sheer that removed some of the high steel and duct work. A number of trucks, skid steers and personnel lifts were used on the job.

Transporting explosives to the location was a delicate process, although Homeland Security rules prevent officials from discussing any specifics. Unable to provide details, Griffin stressed that safety was a top priority for his crews, who made certain all requirements and regulations had been followed.

On the day of the blast, demolition experts inserted dynamite charges in pre-drilled holes at the base of each stack and used explosive charges to blast through the boilers’ steel. Attention to detail was crucial, as was creating the right balance.

“We simultaneously blasted from two command posts,” said Griffin. “This was planned so that everything didn’t hit the ground at the same time. We wanted to minimize the seismic vibration. The biggest challenge for us was working inside an operating port that’s one of the busiest on the East coast. We also had to coordinate with the airport. Often, power plants are located 12 miles out of town in the middle of an 8,000-acre tract surrounded by nothing but woods, but that definitely wasn’t the case here.”

According to Brostowicz, the old plant came online in 1960 and was fueled by oil. The company conducted studies and found that customers would save more than $400 million by tearing down the old unit and building a new one in its place. The new facility will incorporate technology that will use 35 percent less fuel to produce more power. It will rely on low-cost American natural gas as its primary fuel source.

“It was really impressive to see the professionalism and precision used by the demolition contractor,” said Brotowicz. “This was the third power plant in three years Florida Power & Light has demolished to make way for a new efficient energy center. The speed with which these billion-dollar investment projects are completed is astounding. The Cape Canaveral Energy Center came online at the end of April, the Riviera Beach Energy Center will come online next summer and the Port Everglades center will come online in 2016. We expect to start construction of the new energy center in the first quarter of 2014.”

Florida Power & Light projects the three-year construction will create about 650 jobs and produce roughly $20 million in new tax revenue annually to local governments and schools. Electricity from the plant will power 260,000 homes and businesses. By leveraging technology, the new energy center will reportedly cut the carbon dioxide emissions rate in half and reduce overall air emissions by more than 90 percent. Florida Power & Light compares the emissions savings to removing 46,000 cars from I-95 per year.

Although it will be years before the new plant is constructed and fully operational, crews have plenty to keep them busy.

“We will be clearing tens of thousands of tons of debris from the site in the coming months,” said Brostowicz. “There are several types of hydraulic track excavators that will be used to help prepare debris for removal.”

Hydraulic track excavators with shearing attachments for cutting the steel structures are among several machines on site. The excavators are equipped with grapples for separating and loading trucks with steel. A specialized hydraulic machine with a magnet attachment is used to handle structural and reinforcing steel. Traditional track loaders will be assisting in the loading of concrete materials. Hundreds of truckloads will be used to remove 98 percent of the debris from the site and take it to appropriate recycling facilities.

During the implosion, nearby traffic was stopped briefly so that motorists weren’t distracted or alarmed by the activity. The Coast Guard and marine police established a perimeter in the waters around Port Everglades and the power plant to ensure that boaters did not enter the safety exclusion zone. In addition, access on land was restricted.

Retired and current Florida Power & Light employees, business owners and elected officials were among the thousands who turned out for the dramatic demolition, and was described by Brostowicz as emotional for many who witnessed it.

“The four 350-foot candy-cane striped smokestacks were a part of the skyline for decades,” said Brostowicz. “Their location near the Fort Lauderdale airport, the interstate, beaches and port made them a familiar landmark for millions of South Floridians and visitors.”

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